We've got our MapQuest printouts directing us to the admissions offices, our cell phones stored with contact information of department chairs, and, most crucially, an iPod plugged into the car lighter.
We're embarking, my son, a pal of his, and I, on a modern-day expedition into the heart of uncertainty - otherwise known as the College Tour.
The future's so unclear we have to wear bifocals.
I do, anyway.
I'm like, College Tour? What is that? Something made up by the travel industry?
(Here we go )
When I was your age, we didn't have College. Tours.
We had college.
You applied, you got in, you went. None of this check-it-out stuff.
What's there to check out? I'll tell you what: the tuition, that's what. And for that, you don't need a tour. You need different parents. Moneyed parents.
"Dad, this is the exit."
We drive through downtown Baltimore to the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Sam wants to be a musician. You don't need a college education to go into a career where you starve to death, I consider telling him, but, hey, you don't have to go to college to go into a career you don't like either. Actually, maybe you do. The point is, if things don't work out, then, as one of his favorite bands, Led Zeppelin, counsels, "There's still time to change the road you're on."
At Peabody, we meet with a student Sam knows from our hometown of Washington, D.C. He dispenses valuable advice - "time management is the key" - while taking us around to the practice rooms, the dorms, and the library. We end in the cafeteria. He looks around and then suggests that we go down the street to a sandwich shop.